Vineland High School’s valedictorian not was decided solely on academic merit.
A meeting involving the class’s top three students, parents, school district officials and a couple of lawyers has resulted on an unsual situation: Two valedictorians will speak at graduation in June.
Two seniors challenged the district’s ranking system, and its naming of Blake Pescatore as valedictorian.
Students Ivonna Dumanyan and Matthew Wolfe claimed the system — which ranked them second and third, respectively — is flawed. Wolfe’s mother had earlier gone to the state Department of Education in an attempt to correct the ranking system. Dumanyan informed the Board of Education on Monday that she was filing a grievance over the system.
Vineland district’s class-ranking system gives different weight to different types of courses, factoring in advanced-placement classes as more challenging.
Blake Pescatore took a summer arts class at Cumberland County College, and Richard Pescatore said his daughter took the course in full compliance with district policies.
However, Dumanyan and Wolfe argue that college course replaced a more challenging advanced placement course. Lesser weight given to the CCC course made it impossible for the computations to leave Blake Pescatore as valedictorian, they contend.
Dumanyan said she has a 4.53 grade point average.
When asked for her grade point average, Blake Pescatore said, “I have no idea.”
Interim Superintendent of Schools Mary Gruccio resolved the situation by calling Wednesday’s meeting. Pescatore and Dumanyan agreed to be co-valedictorians, with Wolfe as salutatorian.
Pescatore and Dumanyan said Friday evening they are glad the situation is resolved.
“We feel very happy that there was a compromise,” Dumanyan said, adding she still hopes that the district’s ranking system will be further reviewed.
In a statement given to The Press of Atlantic City, Blake Pescatore writes that, “I’ve worked very hard to get to the point where I achieved the valedictorian spot. I earned every ‘A’ that I received and took as many (advanced placement) classes as I could. It is unfortunate that the school board’s nebulous and shifting policies incentivize decision making based on class rank rather than the educational value of any particular course of study.
“It is clear from their efforts to gain recognition for their hard work through lawyers, meetings with school officials and Facebook message campaigns that it is important to (Dumanyan and Wolfe) to have the epithet of valedictorian ascribed to them. I understand that because the title is important to me, too.”
Gruccio said the district has clarified its position on the program that allows Vineland High School students to take courses at CCC. The policy prohibits students from taking courses at CCC if the same course if offered at Vineland High School, she said.
Gruccio admitted that the program was not “consistently applied” in the past.
“From this point forward, it will be clear cut,” she said. “Hopefully, moving forward, this will not be an issue.
Dumanyan said the issue was never personal.
“To be honest, I really do like Blake,” she said.
Pescatore and Wolfe have been friends since second grade. Pescatore said she called Wolfe on Wednesday to talk about playing some Frisbee this weekend.
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